Gateways commits to restricting average class sizes to between 14-18 pupils and opens its doors to boys joining the High School from September 2019. Click the link below to read all about it!
Understandably this news has been met with lots of interest as well as lots of questions. In the hope that it helps everyone to understand developments as they take place, we will be keeping this page updated with questions we get asked and the answers we are giving! Check back regularly for updates.
Will Gateways be seeking to recruit more staff in order to deliver the 14-18 class size promise?
In due course, yes. Looking ahead to September 2018 we can already see the need emerging for an additional member of the Key Stage 1 team and perhaps up to 2 additional members of the Key Stage 2 team. This is solely as a result of the sheer number of enquiries, registrations and new starters we have already had since making our announcements. A note to this effect has already been posted on the website under “Working at Gateways”.
When will the consultations with parents of children in year 5 and below regarding the future educational model to be offered begin?
The first of the consultation sessions will take place, as mentioned in the letter, on January 31st. If anyone wishes to express a particular view and find that they can’t make that session then they are very welcome to book a slot in my (Dr Johnson) diary or indeed they can arrange to speak with anyone on Leadership (Mrs Titman, Mrs Wallis or Mrs Wood) at any time. No doubt other consultation and feedback sessions will follow the one on 31st January but we don’t have dates for those as yet.
Where is the evidence that 14-18 pupils in a class is the ideal range and will fees have to rise to pay for this?
The Institute of Education in London has conducted the most recent research on this matter and determined that restricting class size really does make a positive difference to pupil outcomes. Their findings regarding the optimum range is supported by a number of other international pieces of research. This is because it improves one of the top factors known to impact on pupil outcomes, that of teacher efficacy. And this stands to reason doesn’t it? Having fewer students to teach means that individual teachers can:
get to know every pupil much better get a stronger handle on their strengths and weaknesses build more knowledgeable relationships with each pupil give better quality and more regular feedback to each of their students on how to improve their work because they are feeding back to fewer pupils overall create more frequent opportunities for all students to participate in class discussion because there are fewer pupils to be listened to respond to and implement the recommended intervention strategies for those children who have them.
Classroom behaviour is also improved with a reduction in class size and the ability to provide direct instruction enhanced. Teachers also have fewer parents to engage with on a regular basis and therefore the home-school partnership is stronger and more focussed with each and every pupil, not just those who would usually demand an additional focus. Although you have not asked this I would also mention that limiting the overall size of the school so that most of the teachers actually teach most of the pupils, means that the teachers not only all know one another well, there is a smaller number of staff overall and therefore communications across the staff body are more frequent and meaningful. This regular sharing of quality information between colleagues also benefits the pupils.
In answer to your second question regarding potential fee increases needed to pay for these changes the answer is a resounding ‘no’. Every year, independent school fees tend to rise by a small percentage due to the rises in our cost bases. As our infrastructure and facility changes can all be funded out of current budgets, I do not see any reason why any extraordinary fee increases would be required as a result of these changes.
Where will the funding come from to support the additional investment in the facilities referenced in the Letter?
In terms of facilities, we have undertaken a comprehensive analysis of our site and have determined that the school already has capacity to accommodate boys and girls in High School through to around 2021 without requiring any significant investment. We will need additional toilet and changing facilities of course but these can be funded out of the usual property and maintenance budgets.
As Gateways is a small school (one of the reasons we chose the school), how will the grounds/space be utilised to accommodate teenage boys – will there be more separation between the High School, Prep School, Transition + Reception (i.e. at break time)?
In terms of space, we are actively seeking to enlarge our site because that enlargement would indeed allow the additional space you speak of for the older boys to get together to play football and such like during recreational times as well as providing additional facilities, sporting and otherwise. However, even if enlargement does not prove possible in the long run, we already enjoy the benefit of a large site which is under-utilised in several respects as it stands. I would envisage looking at these areas creatively in order to provide those spaces you mention and which I agree are essential in maintaining a harmonious community!
Will boys and girls be taught in separate gender-based classes when they move through to the High School or will they be taught in co-ed classes all together?
At Gateways we do not operate a “one size fits all” model. Our size allows us offer a more personalised educational experience where the interests of the pupils are at the heart of every decision made. We have therefore not determined this important point yet as we would like to take the time to have further discussions with parents, pupils and staff to determine what model we feel will best meet the educational and pastoral needs of the pupils as they make this transition. I can only say therefore that nothing has been ruled out and the discussions will be wide ranging and diverse!
Is Gateways in trouble?
Far from it! A number of years ago, in response to the economic downturn, Gateways adjusted its business model to cater for smaller class sizes. In “accountant speak” our EBITDA every financial year is very nicely positive, every year we turn a cash surplus, we have significant reserves held at the bank and we have a very small debt-to-asset ratio. Having seen the benefit of the smaller class sizes on our value added data (resulting in an annual placing within the top ten schools nationally) we could continue “as is” quite easily.
However, we are ambitious for our school as well as for our pupils. We want to embark on exciting developments and we know parents are also keen for us to progress projects such as an all-weather pitch etc. We have also been looking at other senior schools for our prep boys and honestly cannot find a “Gateways for boys” anywhere in the locality. In making these changes we fill 2 gaps in the marketplace:
No other school in the area promises to deliver average class sizes in the 14-18 range. Gateways is making this promise and we believe this will appeal to parents who are concerned about class sizes regularly hitting 20 and above, including in other independent schools Girls in the area can already choose Gateways as an excellent senior school. The boys in our area have been crying out for an alternative senior choice for some time and now they finally have that choice.
The ethos at Gateways will not change. We will remain a small school in comparison to those around us and we will continue to place our pupils at the centre of any decision we make. Their educational and pastoral interests will remain our first priority and we will not have the ‘one size fits all’ model that larger schools have to adopt out of necessity.
Besides, if Gateways was in trouble, would we really be limiting class sizes to between 14-18 pupils on average or would we be packing as many pupils into each class as we could to keep costs down? Would we really be waiting until 2019 to make this change or would we be moving much more swiftly? Would we really proceed in an evolutionary way with a single leading year group of boys moving through the school or would we open up as many year groups to boy applicants as possible? I think the answers to these questions speak for themselves.
Sorry – that was a very long answer to quite a short question!